For the week ending 23 January 2016 / 13 Shevat 5776

Gittin 44 - 50

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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  • Retrieving a slave from captivity
  • If children are penalized for their father's violation of a rabbinic ban
  • A slave sold to an owner outside of Eretz Yisrael
  • Whether money is returned in an invalid transaction
  • Ransoming captives and helping them escape
  • The "bird talk" of Rabbi Ilish
  • Redeeming sacred objects from non-Jews
  • Which cause of divorce prevents remarriage with the divorcee
  • The vow which cannot be nullified
  • Redeeming a Jew who sold himself as a slave to a non-Jew
  • Bikurim from a field sold to a non-Jew or one in which he owns only the produce or two trees in the field
  • The difference between sanctifying an inherited field or a purchased one
  • Which properties can be confiscated for payment of obligations by Torah law or rabbinical ordinance
  • Why a woman collects her ketubah from inferior property
  • Collecting a debt from orphans
  • Does receiver of a gift have the same power of collecting from giver's property as does a creditor

What Price Ransom? - Ransoming a Jew

  • Gittin 45a

Ransoming a Jew from captivity presents a painful challenge. The mishnah seems to offer a clear-cut ruling that an exorbitant ransom cannot be paid and the reason given in the gemara is that this might encourage non-Jews to kidnap other Jews in order to gain such a ransom.

Are there exceptions to the rule?

Two exceptions are mentioned by Tosefot.

One deals with the obligation of a man to ransom his wife from captivity. In Mesechta Ketubot (52a) we learn that if the captors demand ten times the woman's value the husband is obligated to pay that sum if this was the first time he had to ransom her.

Another exception is found in our own Mesechta Gittin (58a) where we learn that Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananiah paid a very large sum of money to ransom an extraordinarily gifted and handsome youngster.

Regarding the first exception the explanation given is that of a man being allowed to spend all the money he wants in order to ransom himself, and his wife falls under the category of self-ransom.

Rabbi Yehoshua's action could have been based on one of two considerations. There is the likelihood that the youngster's life was in danger and there is no limit on how much the public must spend to save a life. The other consideration is that the youngster had demonstrated an unusual potential to be a great Torah scholar and this justified spending more than a normal amount to gain his freedom

What the Sages Say

"The Jewish people are compared to a dove (Just as the wings of the dove protect it, so do the mitzvot of the Jewish People protect them — Mesechta Shabbat 130a), so that I can rely on the dove's message that I will be saved by a miracle."

  • Rabbi Ilish - Gittin 45a

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